5 guidelines for successful goal setting

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August 14, 2018

I recently finished up a training that has been a pretty big goal of mine since the beginning of the year. In February, I received an email promotion stating that Ramsey Solutions' (Dave Ramsey's company) Financial Coach Master Training was now being offered online. What was once only offered as a 4 day training in Nashville, was now accessible to me all the way in Houston. I knew I wanted to participate in it instantly. 

In order to realistically put this dream into action, I made completing this training a big goal of mine. Now, I've had a lot of goals in my life that have gone unmet, but I did not want to let that happen to this one. In order to ensure the accomplishment Financial Coach Master Training, I followed these 5 practices of setting highly effective goals:

Be specific - When we set goals that are general, we are immediately setting ourselves up for a bit of failure. Goals like, "to lose weight," or "to save money," can feel overwhelming and can easily get lost in the busyness of life. Be specific when setting goals. "I want to lose 5 pounds," or "I want to save $300," will go a lot further as you'll have something specific to work toward. 

Be measurable - Similar to your goals being specific, they also need to be measurable. Losing weight and paying off debt are both pretty measurable as you can physically see the scale numbers going down or the savings numbers going up. But you can also track goals that are not traditionally easy to measure - you just have to figure out what the definition of measurement is for them (and sometimes you figure that out as you're working toward the goal.) For example, when I embarked on following the Whole30 program for the first time, I simply wanted to feel better. At first, I wasn't quite sure what that meant, but as I dug into the program, and actually started to feel better, I realized it meant a variety of things. Sleeping better, fitting into my clothes better, having more energy throughout the day, etc. Effective goals are measurable and there is room to figure out what, in fact, the measurement is.

Be time sensitive - This one seems a bit obvious but if you don't have a timeframe involved, you may never accomplish what you're going for. I'm incredibly deadline oriented and am driven by a looming due date (this is just me saying a bunch of words that really mean I'm a procrastinator.) However, even if waiting until the very last second to complete a task isn't your MO, setting a due date is still incredibly helpful as an end point to work toward. In saving up for the Financial Coaching Master Training, my ideal deadline was "as quickly as possible," but my realistic deadline was within six months. Having a dream timeframe and a realistic timeframe will help keep you moving, but also protect you from feeling like you "failed."

Be written - Writing things down gives them an immense amount of power. Writing your goals down brings them to life a bit more than when they just live in your head. When you write out goals, you are more likely to feel held accountable (which is a good thing!) and to begin taking the action steps to make them happen. Plus, nothing is more fun than going back and looking at a written list of dreams and being able to cross things off. I even wrote about my goal of signing up for Financial Coach Master Training on the blog. Whether you written down privately or publicly, writing your goals down gives them power.

Be yours - Lastly, the goals you are setting need to be yours. You're not setting goals for your mom or your dad, or your boyfriend or girlfriend, or your dog or your cat. We already have a ton of goals that are set for us by work or volunteer organizations. It's incredibly important to figure out what it is that YOU want to accomplish, and that YOU want out of life. No one else will be doing the work for you, so why let them dictate the end result?

What other tips do you have for setting goals that are effective?

[GUEST POST] 5 things to consider before buying your first home

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July 17, 2018

While I am (what feels like) eons away from even thinking about owning my own home, I realize that many of you reading this may be a bit closer to this milestone. Since I am still living in renter's world, my knowledge of home buying is pretty slim so today I'm bringing in an expert on this matter. He also happens to be a great friend of mine!

Rusty not only knows home buying because he and his wife, Jess, bought their first home just last year, but he's also pretty well informed as a Houston based real estate agent. 

Here are the top 5 things he advises you to consider before purchasing your first home:

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If you have been a longtime follower of Katie’s 1) You are probably a Rockstar who makes super smart decisions and 2) you are likely well on your way to getting control of your money and being debt free! That also means you are probably in a better position to buy a home than a lot of other people (who are silly enough not to follow Katie). That said, buying a home can be super overwhelming which is how I felt when my wife (Jess) and I decided to buy our first home. However, once we got through it and I understood how the process worked, I wanted to do it again, so I became a real estate agent! Based on my own experience buying my first home, and now in the real estate business, here are 5 things to consider before buying your first home:

1. Consider Talking to a Mortgage Lender (WAY before you’re ready to move) - This should really be the one of the first conversations you have when you consider buying a home. A lender will be able to tell you what you qualify for AND will be able to help you better understand how much money you will actually need to have saved up for the kind of home you want to buy. Furthermore, they will be able to explain the various options that are available to you (first time home buyer programs, lower down payment programs, veterans programs, etc.,).

I know Dave Ramsey has some endorsed local providers that work with people who follow the Financial Peace University plan. Definitely check those out. My biggest tips here are to find someone smaller and local. You want to find a company who is going to treat you like their number one client even if you’re not ready to buy yet. They work for you and you should find someone who gives you great service and options that will fit your situation best!

2. Consider Saving MORE Than You Think You Need - If you talk to a mortgage lender on the front end, you’ll have a good idea of what kind of down payment you’ll need, but there is a mess of random things you’ll have to pay for when buying a house. For instance you’ll likely need to pay for an inspection, appraisal, origination fee on loan, title insurance, escrow fee, mortgage insurance, home owners insurance, and more. A good lender should be able to give you a rough estimate on this kind of stuff too, but keep in mind they’re just estimates.

On top of that there are other expenses that are bound to pop up – boxes and packing material, moving company, a new couch for your beautiful new living room, etc. If you are planning on making a move in the next year, I recommend starting a sinking fund today. Save that money little by little each month so that when your move comes, you can enjoy the process, rather than looking in the couch for change to pay the movers to move it!

3. Consider The End of Your Lease / When You Can Move - When you even start thinking of moving, it’s super easy to get caught up in the excitement of it all. Before you know it, you’ll be pricing shiplap and looking online at houses so you can make into your very own fixer upper. But don’t make the same mistake we did. When Jess got pregnant with our first son, we felt like we needed to get into a house ASAP (this was before we started working with Katie, clearly). We rushed, found a house we liked, and bought it… with 4 months left on our lease. Big mistake. HUGE.

Set the date that works for you and YOUR budget. Real estate agents are constantly talking about shifts in the market, trying to get people to hurry up and buy. DON’T DO IT. Set your goals, pay down that debt, and buy when it makes sense for your finances.

4. Consider Making a Priority List of Things You’re Looking for In a House - Before you make one of the largest purchases of your life and take on more debt, know why you want to move and what you need in your new house to make it worth the investment. This will help you make smart decisions when you buy your house which will, in turn, help you end up with a house that you want to keep for a long time. Making a priority list means determining the MOST important things. If you are moving because you need more space for a growing family, your priority list will keep you from buying a small house because you just LOVE the bathroom (it happens, I promise).

Things to consider when making your priority list: Size (bedrooms, bathrooms, yard, etc.), location (neighborhood, local businesses, schools, etc.), PRICE, and featured amenities. List ALL the things you want and need, separate them into non-negotiable and wish list, and then RANK them within those categories. This will save you a lot of time and energy down the road.

5. Find a Real Estate Agent That Works for YOU - A good real estate agent should be your guide, advocate, and champion. By LAW we are required to give you fiduciary duty which means putting your interests above our own, and offering loyalty, honesty, confidentiality, and more. Beyond that, real estate transactions require the involvement of a LOT of different people – lenders, inspectors, appraisal officers, title companies, contractors, etc. A good agent will have a reliable network of recommendations who should treat you as well as they themselves treat you. Find an agent that takes the time to get to know you and your needs, who treats you like their number one client, and who will do everything in their power to help you get where you need to go.

FINAL THOUGHTS

Buying a home can be overwhelming, but just like finances in general, a little planning on the front end can help you go further than you thought was possible. One of my biggest goals in real estate is to help people navigate this complicated process. You can do it! Plan ahead, get the right people in your corner, and buy that house!

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PS: If you're in the Houston area and are currently in the buyer's market, definitely check out Rusty as an option to help you land the home you're dreaming of!

Rusty Gates:

Website: https://www.rustygatesrealestate.com/

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/rustyjgates/

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/RustyGatesRealEstate/

 

TREC Information About Brokerage Services | TREC Consumer Protection Notice

 

3 reasons you should be preparing for Christmas in July

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July 11, 2018

Before we dive deep into this topic I've got a question for you - have you actually heard this phrase before -  "Christmas in July?" I'm going to need you to go ahead and give me a yes or no comment section for this one because I just found out a friend of mine has never heard this phrase before and it baffled me. To be fair, he's from the northeast, so maybe Christmas in July is just a southern thing? Who can say.

However, whether you've heard of this phrase or not, it really is a great idea to actually start preparing for Christmas in July. As someone that's done this exactly once in their life (this year not being one of them), it is one of the better decisions I've ever made. In fact, last year I actually started planning for Christmas in April/May and it made my holiday season an absolute breeze. Here's why:

1. It saves your budget - When you start saving money in July for Christmas, it means you won't be trying to pinch pennies in October and November for the presents you want to purchase. Setting aside a little cash each month throughout the year will give you a nice pile of spending money for Christmas and your budget won't have to take a massive hit.

2. It saves your sanity - Setting aside money each month to spend on Christmas gifts not only takes the load off of your wallet, but also gives you the freedom to purchase gifts throughout the year, rather than running around like a crazy person on December 24th. (Oh that's just me that does that? Okay, cool.) You can start picking up gifts here and there, giving you the opportunity to get ahead of the game and actually enjoy the holiday season when it arrives.

3. It saves your gift-giving reputation - Giving gifts is my favorite love language but any time I wait until the last minute to purchase them I wind up giving random presents just to make sure I'm giving something. Setting aside money throughout the year allows you to pick up gifts as you come across them or order specialized ones in plenty of time. 

 

This time last year I had a nice Christmas sinking fund set up and I was feeling prepared for the holiday season. However, this year, I haven't been nearly as diligent and I am being reminded why I started saving earlier last year in the first place. I'm planning on picking up some slack in my August budget so I can get a bit ahead of the Christmas rat race. August is better than never, right? (That's what I'm telling myself.)

Do you have any special tips or tricks that get you and your budget ready for the holidays? I'd love to hear!

 

Need a budget but have no idea where to start? I've got you covered with a FREE budget template and guide. Just click the picture below to download!

4 ways to stop overspending on impulse purchases

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June 27, 2018

There was a time in my life where I rarely walked out of a store without something purchased in hand. Sometimes it was something that I had gone into the store to intentionally purchase. But most of the time it wasn't. Whether a big item or small, I always felt the need to swipe my card and carry something out with me. It was a combination of a little bit of shopping FOMO and a whole lot of wishful thinking about how much money I actually had. Eventually, though, I snapped out of it (hello, 12,000+ dollars in credit card debt), and stopped spending money on impulse purchases.

Here are my top 4 tactics for cutting out the impulse overspending:

Make a budget (and stick to it)

One of the top 10 reasons I used to overspend was simply because I had no idea how much money I actually had in my account. I consistently overestimated how much I actually had so I would just buy random things here and there thinking I had all the money in the world to spend. I didn't. Cue overdraft fees, galore. But hey, turns out - when you know how much money you actually have in your account, you're far less likely to spend it on things you don't actually need. Make a budget, stick to it, and stop wasting money on that $5 chapstick in the checkout line at Target when you've already got 3 others as the bottom of your purse or in your car.

Carry only the amount of cash you need

I'm a firm believer that one of the best ways to stay on budget and not overspend is to purchase things with cash. I've talked about this before and there are a few reasons for this:

1. You're actually able to SEE how much money you have in front of you. Nothing holds you more accountable than physically looking at what you have to spend. 

2. You're less likely to overspend because when your money runs out...it literally runs out, making it difficult to keep shopping. 

3. You FEEL spending when you use cash vs. a card, so you're more likely to think through the purchase you're about to make rather than impulse spending. When you pay for something with cash, the pain sensor in your brain is triggered. When you pay for something with a card, NOTHING in your brain is triggered. This is an instance where no pain, no (financial) gain really does make sense.

Give yourself permission to spend

Believe it or not, you get to spend money on things you want even while living on a budget. A budget just gives you boundaries, which in turn actually gives you freedom. Creating a line item in your budget for spending or entertainment or clothing will actually keep you on budget and keep you from overspending in the long run. If you cut yourself off cold turkey from spending all together you'll likely have a panic attack one day and go and spend $300 on workout clothes (hi, hello - been there, done that.) Giving yourself the permission to spend will not only keep you from spend-snapping, but it will also allow you to feel more in control of your money.

Remember your goals

And last but not least, the best way to stay on task and not overspend is to remember your goals. Remember what you're working toward in the first place and you'll be far more inclined to spend your hard-earned monies on an impulse buy you don't need or actually want. Whether you're working your way out of debt or saving up for a new car, you've worked too hard to throw off your budget for those llama-shaped chip clips. 

 

How to meal prep for the entire week in one hour

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June 17, 2018

Listen - we're busy. We're over here living life on budgets and still having fun. We've only got so many hours in a day and so much to do! I hear you and I'm here to tell you that living life on a budget AND eating healthy are both possible and we don't have to spend that much time in the kitchen to make it happen.

When I started figuring out that I needed to get my eating habits in order, I remember being really overwhelmed by the whole idea of meal prepping. Much of the overwhelmed feeling had to do with my lack of skill in the kitchen, but also just the time I thought it would take to prep an entire week's worth of meals. The last thing I wanted to be doing on a Sunday afternoon was cut, chop, and cook for 4 hours!

However, once I started getting serious about clean eating, meal prepping on a Sunday was the only thing that would lead me to success. It took some trial and error but I now have preparing all of my food for the week down to a one hour science. 

The key to implementing a quick meal prep is to just keep things simple. I choose foods that will not only be easy to make on a Sunday afternoon, but that will also keep for a week and will be easy to heat up. When it comes to breakfasts and lunches during the work week, I am not as focused on creating elaborate dishes, rather than just having something that I won't absolutely hate eating and that will give me sustenance for the work day.

Here's what my weekly meals look like:

Breakfast - two hardboiled eggs and roasted red potatoes and broccoli (don't knock it 'til you try it)

Lunch - pieces of rotisserie chicken, roasted Brussels sprouts, an avocado, blueberries and strawberries (I really love just throwing a bunch of random things on a plate and calling it lunch)

Snacks - banana, carrots and cucumbers

Here are my steps for a fast and easy prep:

  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees
  2. Chop up red potatoes and broccoli
  3. Toss in olive oil and season with salt and pepper
  4. Cook at 400 degrees for 25-35 minutes
  5. While broccoli and potatoes are cooking, put a pot of water on the stove for hard boiled eggs
  6. While waiting for water to boil, chop up Brussels sprouts, toss them in olive oil and season with salt and pepper
  7. Once water is boiling, place in ten eggs and let boil for 9 minutes
  8. Around this time the first batch of roasted veggies are done, so replace those with Brussels and cook for 25-30 at 400 degrees
  9. Remove eggs from boiling water and place them in an ice bath to cool
  10. While Brussels are cooking, pull apart rotisserie chicken and place in tupperware
  11. Chop up fruit and additional veggies if necessary
  12. Clean kitchen

Boom. Done in one hour!

Meal prepping on a Sunday not only keeps me on track to put good, clean food in my body (something my waistline appreciates), but it also ensures I'll stay on budget (something my wallet appreciates.) 

Do you have any tips for quick and painless meal prep? I'd love to hear them! I'm sure, eventually, I'm going to get tired of roasted broccoli in the morning. ;)

PS - Have you wanted to try something like Whole30 but haven't because of all the $$ you think you have to spend? I've got a free guide for getting you through the program for $75 a week or less. Click the picture below to snag it!

17 free things to do in Houston this summer

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June 10, 2018

Summer is here, alive, and well and even though I stopped getting an actual summer break roughly 10 years ago (can I go back?) I still love to spend my weeknights and weekends gallivanting around, pretending like my real world responsibilities don't exist. 

But summer gallivanting can get 'spensive, especially when you still have to, you know, pay your bills and stuff. So here's a quick little list of a bunch of fun and FREE summer things to do in Houston!

Miller Outdoor Theatre - This is by far my top 3 favorite things about Houston. What could be better than gathering your friends, sitting on a blanket with plates of cheese and meats and wine, and enjoying a show. From the Houston Symphony to the Houston Ballet to some killer community theatre by organizations like Theatre Under the Stars, there is not shortage of wonderful entertainment here. Pro tip: there are also a limited number ticketed seats in front of the stage if hoofing it up a gigantic hill to have a picnic isn't your thing. They're also free, you just have to come pick them up the day of the show from 10:30 am - 1:00 pm. There's usually a pretty long line but it moves quickly. 

The Art Car Museum - The Art Car Museum is a private institution dedicated to contemporary art, with a focus on how people take something as fundamental as a vehicle and turn it into a personal symbol. Fun fact: Houston is often considered the "Art Car Capital of the World," with an entire parade dedicated to them every April. However, if you can't wait around until April to see some, admission to the Art Car Museum is free of charge year round.

Screen on the Green - Among other fun, free things to do at Discovery Green (read: the flea market, Flea by Night), there are also free movies on a giant blow up screen throughout the summer. Again, it's another pack up everyone and spread out a blanket on a hill situation but free and kid-friendly.

Cistern History Tours on the Bayou - Sure you can do a lot of free things along the Bayou already, like...walk or run, but you can also get in on some history as well. On Thursdays, free guided tours are given to learn about this unique space and the history of Houston's water system.

Water Wall - Not only a free and awesome thing to see, but also making for an incredible photo opp, the Water Wall is a 64 foot U shaped wall with water rushing down both its inside and outside walls. 

Houston Arboretum and Nature CenterNestled in Memorial Park, which in and of itself already has a ton to do, the Houston Arboretum and Nature Center has trails, a discovery room, and other interactive exhibitions all dedicated to educating people on how to take care of the plants and animals local to Houston. 

Urban Harvest Farmers MarketsThis is just one of a bajillion farmers markets that can be found around Houston on Saturdays in the summers. And while, sure, you do have to buy things if you want to take anything home, there are always a ton of free samples for those looking to stay on budget and just enjoy a Saturday morning stroll. ;)

James Turrell's Twilight Epiphany Skyspace - At sunrise and sunset this artistic structure reflects the natural light illuminating the grass covered pyramid beneath it. Shows to this are free but reservations are required. 

Waugh Bridge Bat Colony Viewing - For free, you can witness over 250,000 bats emerging from one of Houston's bridges right after dusk each night. I know it sounds a little batty (intended), but it's an actual thing that actual people do and I think it's actually pretty cool. 

The Menil Collection - With four museum buildings, The Menil Collection is a 30-acre neighborhood of art completely free of charge. A few exhibits are permanently dedicated to two artists and others host year-long exhibitions.

Rothko Chapel A spiritual space located right next to the Menil Collection, Rothko Chapel contains 14 murals of art by Mark Rothko and is visited by people from all over the world of different faiths.

Free Museum Entries - And if you have figured it out already, Houston is a pretty cultured place with many museums. Most of these museums have pretty typical entry fees, but on Thursdays many of them are free!

Buffalo Soldiers National Museum: Free Thursday 1 - 5 pm

Children's Museum of Houston: Free Thursday 5  -  8 pm

The Health Museum: Free Thursday 2  -  5 pm

Holocaust Museum Houston: Free Thursday 2  -  5 pm

Houston Museum of Natural Science: Free Thursday after 2 pm

Museum of Fine Arts, Houston: Free Thursday 10 am  -  9 pm

 

What did I miss? Do you have any other suggestions of fun, free things to do in Houston this summer?

 

PS - Need to figure out if you can afford any summer fun that may cost money but aren't sure where to start? Download my free budget template to see how far you can stretch out your fun money while still being a responsible adult. Just click the picture below!

Should I keep a credit card for emergencies?

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May 28, 2018

Probably one of the most controversial steps in the Dave Ramsey way to financial peace is to get rid of any and all credit cards. People have a lot of conflicting thoughts about this rule, but the reasoning behind it is pretty simple: credit card debt is a gigantic problem in America. The Federal Reserve has found that Americans are approaching $1 trillion in credit card debt. Rewards, points, airline miles, FICO scores aside, the average spender is not disciplined in regulating their credit card spending which eventually leads to a giant credit card bill to pay off. And when your debt outweighs any of the "benefits" of having a credit card, are the "benefits" even worth it anymore?

I've now been through three different Financial Peace University classes. Both in the one that I attended at the beginning of my own financial freedom journey, and the two that I've had the opportunity to coordinate, the lesson on credit cards has always been one of the hardest for participants. Because Dave Ramsey is so anti-credit card, there is time set aside in the lesson to physically cut up your cards. Every time we get to this part in the class where everyone is encouraged to take out their credit cards and start chopping, people freeze. They look around with terror in their eyes and anxiety on their faces. The hesitancy is often palpable in the room as everyone processes what they're being asked to do.

The truth is, for many of us, credit cards feel a lot like security blankets. The thought of getting rid of them all, and not even having one "just in case" really wigs us out. Every time we get to the credit card cutting phase of the class the inevitable question is asked. 

"Don't I need to keep one just in case of an emergency?"

And the answer is no.

See, if you're following the baby steps, you're very first one is to build up a $1,000 emergency fund to use...you know...in case of an emergency. Step two is to pay off your debt as fast as humanly possible using the debt snowball method, and then step three is to build that emergency fund into a savings that will cover 3-6 months of expenses. If you follow these steps, no credit cards are necessary. And, though, many people believe that the minute they cut up their credit card, they'll have an emergency that exceeds $1,000, it's likely that we've never actually been in that situation before and it's likely we won't have to be.

If we hold on to a credit card, even just one for emergencies, it is likely that we will not save up for things as diligently as we would if we didn't have a credit card security blanket in our wallet. Temptation easily sneaks in when you've got that plastic in your possession, and then the next thing you know Christmas presents become an "emergency," then the next new Apple product becomes an "emergency," and so on and so forth. Before you know it that credit card bill has climbed high fast. 

So, though controversial, I echo that there is no need to keep a credit card in case of an emergency, especially while you're paying off debt. There is just too much temptation that creeps in when it's in your wallet and with its capability of giving us instant gratification it's the easiest gateway drug back into debt. Just say no, guys. ;) 

PS - if you need a budget template to start working that debt snowball method, grab my free one below!

[Guest Post] 3 Apps That Help You Build Wealth Fast

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May 20, 2018

Assuming you haven't been living under a rock, you've likely noticed that, these days, there are a ton of different apps out there that help you manage your money. "Fintech" (as the cooler kids call it), stands for financial technology and refers to technological innovation in the financial sector, including innovations in financial literacy and education, retail banking, and investment.

Since I am following Dave Ramsey's Baby Steps to financial freedom, and I am still on Baby Step #2 (getting out of debt), I haven't paid too much attention to any of these apps that make investments or retiring simple. In the Dave Ramsey world you first build up a $1000 emergency fund, then get out of debt as quickly as you can, then build up your savings to cover 3-6 months of expenses, and THEN you start focusing on retirement and investments.

For many people this may seem counterintuitive to wait until you get out of debt to start stowing money away for retirement, but what you must remember is that your income is your biggest wealth-building tool. If much of your income is going to your monthly debt payments, you're not able to utilize it as well as you should.  So while the part of retirement and investments is, in fact, one of the most important steps in your money management plan, you've got a few steps to get out of the way first.

There's a great chance that many of you that are reading this article are ready for this step. Since I'm not well-educated in this topic quite yet, I've had a friend that is knowledgeable on it do a write up on his favorite apps so far. 

Today's guest post is by my friend, Elliott Tate. Elliott is married to one of my best Houston friends and colleagues, Holly. Holly grew up as a Dave Ramsey follower, attending Financial Peace University classes when she was a mere 5 years old. They are homeowners, debt free, and are financial role models for myself and many others. They are also always up-to-date with the newest and best apps out there that help make money go further. 

Elliott has been doing a ton of research and below he's listed the 3 best investment and retirement fintech apps that help your money work harder and go further. Enjoy!

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1. Acorns

Acorns is kind of like the old Bank of America “keep the change” campaign where it rounds up your purchases to the nearest dollar and invests the change. You won’t feel the extra .23 cents but you’ll thank yourself later. I’ve been using it for a month or so and have already saved around $75.

*Extra credit - they have partner businesses so you can get coupons that will straight into your investment fund. You’ll get 4% back from World Market and 1% from Apple. So why not get money back from purchases you’re already making?

You can use my invite link and get $5 just for signing up:

Link to get started: https://acorns.com/invite/86APDA

2. Robinhood

Think of Robinhood like Venmo for stocks. For example, put $100 into your Robinhood account, and buy any stock you want. Once you open your account, you can buy stocks without confusing fees. It allows you to experiment with the stock market with very little risk and no fees.

Use this link and you’ll get a free share of a stock you’ve actually heard of with no catch. Examples I’ve seen include Groupon, Sirius XM, and Chesapeake Energy. There’s also a 1 in 200 chance the free stock will be Apple, Facebook, or Berkshire Hathaway.

*Pro tip - Calculate what you might want to get before you put in funds so you don’t have too much cash remaining in your account that’s not being used. Example: You put $100 in, you spend $97 on a stock, and only $3 remains in your account.

Link to get started: http://share.robinhood.com/kristot24

3. WealthFront

This is the easiest way to open a Roth IRA when you either A. Don’t know where to start B. Don’t have much to put in or C. Don’t know what a Roth IRA is.

My wife and I felt all of A, B, and C when we had finally saved up enough to start thinking about retirement funds.

Essentially, a Roth IRA is a retirement savings account for an individual where you put in after-tax income (the opposite of a 401K). As long as you wait until your older than 59 ½, the amount your account grows into is 100% yours.

Here’s a little math to show you the importance: Putting only $100 in per year starting at age 30 yields you $14,791 when you are 65, but if you had started just 5 years earlier, that amount would be $21,361. So that $500 you didn’t invest cost you $6,570 in retirement. So the moral of the story is, put as much as you can in as early as you can, even if you think it’s not enough to be “worth it” because it is.

Good to know facts: The MAX you can invest per person is $5,500 per year, just FYI. If you’re married filing jointly and make over $189,000, you are not eligible to invest in Roth IRAs. If you make over $120,000 filing as an individual, you are not eligible to invest in Roth IRAs.

Even if you don’t have much to invest now, use this link and you’ll get an extra $5,000 managed for free, bringing the total you could invest to $15,000 without any fees. You start with $10,000 managed for free already. But don’t let those 0’s scare you. Even if you’re just putting in $100 or $1,000 per year, starting somewhere is what counts. I like Wealthfront because you’ll be able to grow into your account and make your starting investments go toward your retirement, not fees.

Link to get started: http://wlth.fr/1Z9Y2KI

What to do when you blow your monthly budget in the first week

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May 13, 2018

If you've never created a budget before, putting one together for the very first time can be pretty intimidating. I use the zero-based budget method which means sitting down BEFORE a new month even starts and assigning a place for every single dollar that will come into your checking account so that the total amount in your account at the end of the month equals zero. It seems like an insane task at first if you've never done it before.

The first time I created a zero-based budget (with much help, I assure you), I was scared senseless. "So you're asking me to use only the money that is in my checking account and nothing else? No credit cards or anything? What happens if I run out of money?!" That was my mindset. 

But after I got started, I realized it didn't have to be intimidating. It was actually encouraging to see how much money I actually had to spend on things when I budgeted it out realistically. 

The truth, though, is that budgeting takes quite a bit of practice. It takes anywhere from 90-120 days to get the hang of putting together a not-so-clunky zero-based budget. You'll likely face a few (or many) bumps in the road in the beginning of your budgeting journey. They can look something like:

  • An unexpected event or need that pops up (did you forget about Mother's Day?)
  • A utility bill that is larger than expected
  • A moving expense that you weren't anticipating
  • A medical bill that you thought would be covered by insurance
  • You thought you'd be getting a huge tax refund but instead have to PAY $700 instead (true story)

Life happens, you know? And even though these kinds of events can be frustrating and might make you want to throw in the budgeting towel altogether, not all hope has to be lost. 

So what do you do when something comes along and blows your monthly budget that you put so much work into?

You simply make adjustments.

The beauty of a zero-based budget is that as long as the total is $0 at the end of the month, you can adjust and readjust as needed. That is also the beauty of you being in control of your money vs. your money being in control of you. You get to make the choices of what will take priority and what you might need to let go of for the time being. 

Whether the unexpected cost comes during the first week of your monthly budget or later in the month, adjustments can always be made. It's similar to eating healthy. If you're working on clean eating and you give into a sugar craving, bad advice tells us, "Oh well - I messed up. Might as well keep eating junk food for the rest of the day!"  The same goes for your budget. Just because you forgot your car tag renewal was due this month, doesn't mean you say, "Oh well - I messed up my budget. Might as well just blow my budget and try again next month!" 

That is not only bad advice, it's also just not sustainable. Instead, learn from the unexpected and make the necessary adjustments. Take a look at the areas where you can scrounge up the additional money you need to cover the unexpected cost and adjust those numbers. Maybe you go out to eat a little less this month or you don't buy that sweater you were planning on. No big deal. Make your adjustments and go back to normal the next month. 

In the beginning of your budgeting journey, be prepared to adjust often as you get the hang of things. Don't be hard on yourself if you feel like you've finally got the hang of this whole budgeting thing and then suddenly have to readjust mid-month. Even the most seasoned budgeters forget about expenses. Keep learning and practicing and every dollar will fall into place.

 

PS - If you don't already have a budget template that you love - I've got a FREE one you can download. It will guide you through making a zero-based budget and comes with a little guide as well. Just click below to grab it!

7 simple hacks that make adulting easier (and cheaper)

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April 29, 2018

Do you remember the days when you were a child and you couldn't wait to be an adult so you could make your own decisions? We just couldn't wait to grow up. 

But now that we're grown...don't you sometimes wish you could be a kid again? It actually turns out that being an adult can be hard and exhausting. Who would have thought?!

And while adulting can actually be really fun, it does sometimes get a little overwhelming when we try to keep up with all the things we have to keep up with. And while there will always be hard adulting things we simply can't avoid, there are some hacks out there to make things just a little easier (and sometimes cheaper.)

Here are 7 simple hacks for adulting:

1. Dryel Starter Kit - Do you guys know about this?! I just learned about it this week and went out and bought a starter kit today. Dryel is a kit that allows you to effectively dry clean your clothes at home. The kit comes with a stain pen, odor & wrinkle releaser, a patented bag to put your garments in, and 4 cleaning cloths. Each cleaning cloth can dry clean up to 5 garments. So for just $10 you can dry clean 20 pieces of clothing at home. I am so excited to try this as I've been carrying around a bag of dry clean only garments for months. Remembering to take things to the cleaners is hard...

2. Ibotta - I've actually learned to enjoy grocery shopping, but it's taken years to get there. Either way, it's one of those chores that every adult must do, so if you're going to grocery shop, why not get rewarded for it? Ibotta is an app that gives you cash back for every day purchases. You simply check the app for offers before you go to the store, buy those products (obviously stick to products you'd were already planning to buy), and then take a picture of your receipt through the app. The cash is deposited into the app which can easily be transferred to your bank. It works for all major grocery stores, as well as various clothing stores, pharmacies, etc. Shout out to my friend Amy for telling me about this one a long time ago but I forgot about it until recently! :) 

3. Crockpot liners - Speaking of food, one of my favorite time and money savers is making crockpot meals. You can make a ton of food for the entire week on the cheap. However...cleaning a crockpot is a real bummer. Thank goodness for crockpot liners! This easy hack makes cleaning up that massive meal super simple and who doesn't want that?

4. Walmart grocery pickup - Okay, let's continue on the food train, because why not? It's true that Walmart has always had incredible prices on all items including groceries. It's also true that actually going to Walmart is the favorite activity of exactly 0% of people. Enter Walmart grocery pick up and literally the smartest thing Walmart has ever done. You can now order groceries online, schedule a same-day pickup, drive your car to the pickup location, and watch as a kind Walmart employee loads your items into your car. All for FREE. No markups on your items or weird fees. As long as you don't mind allowing a stranger to pick out your produce this is an incredible to save time and hassle. And if they're out of the products you requested, they'll throw in similar products and other samples for free. I hear you even get $10 off of your bill the first time you use it. Genius.

5. Shopping at stores with point systems - Shopping at places that have discounts or point systems built into their products is a great way to save that money. I am a loyal Sprouts shopper for food, but often shop at Kroger for things like toiletries and pet care needs. When I use my Kroger card I not only get discounts on certain items, but I also get fuel points which goes a long way when I gas up my car. I've had times where I've saved .50 a gallon with those points. #winning Target also has their Cartwheel app that shows you which products are marked down that week. Again, if you're going to be buying these products anyway, might as well save some $$.

6. Paprika Recipe Manager - Apps like Paprika help you organize recipes, make meal plans, and create shopping lists to accommodate them, making grocery shopping a cinch. And if you're looking for an app that keeps all of the things together in one place, check out Cozi which allows you to share events, appointments, etc with other people. The grocery list is even in real time so you can see whether or not you need to swing by the store on your way home from work because your roommate forgot to pick up the butter for the cookies you guys are making for a party. Priorities, people.

7. Vinegar + water cleaner - Cleaning products can derail a budget really quickly if you're not anticipating the need to buy them. However, you can whip up an easy and inexpensive (and green) multi-purpose cleaner by adding 2 tablespoons of vinegar to a cup of water in a spray bottle and voila! Easy and effective cleaner on the cheap. You can add your favorite smelling essential oil to that to make it smell less vinegar-y as well. Don't know anyone that sells essential oils? Hit me up - I know a girl ;) 

 

What other hacks or tricks do you have for making adulting a little more bearable?